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Wojciech 'little Wojtek' Narebski

Professor Wojciech Narebski

1. Middle East

It should be taken into account the very important decision of General Anders to evacuate not only soldiers but also their families from the USSR. Probably this decision, which was not expected by the British military Command in the Middle East, played an important role in the beginning of Wojtek's history among Polish people. It would've been impossible for the poorly organized Polish units arriving in Persia via the Caspian sea and then transported to Palestine (a journey lasting 5 or 6 days) to adopt this young bear because it wouldn't of been allowed by their commanders. On the other hand, such adoption was possible by our civilians who were remaining in Persia and directed not so far, to special camps prepared by Persian and British authorities, near Teheran. And, as follows the first proprietor of the small Wojtek was in fact the Polish civilian girl Irena Bokiewicz. Taken brutally from the warm atmosphere of my home by Soviet political police NKVD I was first shocked.

Half a year in prison as a sixteen year old boy tempered my character and then the liberation (so called 'amnesty' which followed the Sikorski-Mayski pact) resulted in me joining the Polish Army which allowed me to realize my dream of becoming a soldier who would be able to fight, as the only member of my oppressed family and for the lost freedom of them and of my country. Regardless of my rather ill condition (severe diarrhea) I was feeling very happy, especially when the Polish Army had left the inhuman Soviet territory. It was also a great joy to stay in the ancient Palestine - the Holy Land of our Lord. There was a very high percentage of Jewish population in this country and many were Polish immigrants who greeted us on arrival. Nearly everywhere it was possible to speak Polish, as well as to see Polish prewar films. Moreover, i would like to emphasize that all the soldiers, evacuated from this inhuman Soviet country, were very grateful to the British government lead by Winston Churchill. And also to the British Military Command in the Middle East for their decision to strengthen their forces with Polish troops from the USSR and for the perfect organization of this evacuation, including very necessary medical aid for the weakened and often ill ex-prisoners of Soviet labor camps and prisons.

It should be taken into account that in 1942, the Allied Forces in the Middle East were still rather weak. The German forces were in the Caucasus region of the Soviet Union and General Rommel coming from Africa posed a great danger for the petrol fields in Iraq and Persia. Regardless of these difficult conditions the British Command still decided to help us and to organize the Polish 2nd Corps in this region. This was part of my personal experience since I was first treated at the 23rd Scottish General Hospital in Palestine.

We will not forget this act of real friendship!

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